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Madden 23 Franchise Mode: How to Keep the 2022 NFC Playoff Teams on Top

Madden NFL 23

Madden NFL 23

Madden 23 Franchise Mode: How to Keep the 2022 NFC Playoff Teams on Top

It seems as if after every Super Bowl a losing team just as talented as this year’s Eagles team talks about how they will run it back and get it done next year instead. The Bengals, for instance, had every expectation of making another trip to the Super Bowl this season before running into a Chiefs team that had just missed an opportunity the year before because of those same Bengals. The hard truth of the matter is that there are no guarantees and, even though a team might look like a perennial contender, a championship window can close awfully fast. It’s no easy task keeping the core of a roster intact as players age out of their prime or leave for free agency as their value increases.

So how can the NFL teams that made the playoffs this past season ensure that they stay on top for 2023? With the help of Madden 23 and the ability to start a franchise in Super Bowl week, let’s have a look at what looming important decisions these contenders will need to make in the coming days. This will include consideration for each team’s salary cap situation, expiring contracts, and what free agents could potentially be added before the 2023 season kicks off.

In part one here, we will start with the NFC playoff teams before tackling the AFC teams in the next installment.

How To Keep The 2022 NFC Playoff Teams On Top In Madden 23

Minnesota Vikings

2022 Recap: The Vikings had a roller-coaster season in 2022, eventually emerging with an impressive 13-4 division-winning record that perhaps inflated their worth come playoff time. They won a lot of close games, including a 33-point comeback win over the Colts that showcased them at both their worst and their best. In the end, their season came to a disappointing end when they finally lost a close game to the Giants in the Wild Card round.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $62.7M

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • CB Patrick Peterson (2 years, $7M)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (2 years, $10M)

The Vikings have some decisions to make regarding their defense, with Peterson and Tomlinson among the biggest. Tomlinson is younger and probably a better investment than Peterson, who’s on the wrong side of 30 and no longer the reliable shutdown corner he once was.

Potential Cuts

  • QB Kirk Cousins ($30M in savings versus $6.25M cap penalty)

The Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota has been filled with glorious highs (the Justin Jefferson miracle against the Saints in the playoffs) and debilitating lows (the very next game against the Eagles in the NFC Championship). The Vikings could choose to move on from Cousins and use the cap savings on a free agent QB, which would send Cousins on a trip aboard the QB carousel.

Free Agent Fit

  • SS C.J. Gardner-Johnson

In need of someone to take command of the back of the secondary, the Vikings would be wise to make a run at the 25-year-old Gardner-Johnson should the Eagles let him walk in free agency.

Draft Option

  • Edge Lukas Van Ness, West Virginia

If he falls as far as the Vikings in the first round, Van Ness could be inserted into the defensive line rotation and contribute the kind of pass rush that was lacking last season, especially in the playoffs against the Giants.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2022 Recap: Benefiting from being in an NFC South that was putrid in 2022, the Bucs were able to claim the divisional crown despite a losing 8-9 record. At times looking completely out of sync on offense, things came to a head in the Wild Card round when they fell apart in a loss to the Cowboys. A bigger storyline emerged in the offseason when Tom Brady, only the greatest quarterback of all time, decided to (probably) retire for real this time.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $46.4M

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • MLB Lavonte David (3 years, $11M)
  • CB Jamel Dean (4 years $12.5M)

Since the quarterback position is bound to be a question mark for the Bucs next season, they would do well to lock up the core of their defense in David and Dean. The trouble with signing both of them though is that it doesn’t leave the Bucs much choice but to look for their next QB in the draft.

Potential Cuts

  • LT Donovan Smith ($15.3M in savings versus $2.65M cap penalty)

The Bucs can free up a little bit of cap pace by releasing Donovan Smith with one year left on his deal. At a 73 OVR in Madden 23, he’s not really worth what the Bucs would be paying him in 2023 and that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Free Agent Fit

  • QB Baker Mayfield

If the Bucs do want to go the free agent route to fill their need at QB, they will likely need to lower their expectations and look beyond better candidates like Jimmy Garoppolo or Geno Smith. Someone like Baker Mayfield (or even a Sam Darnold) eager for an opportunity to prove himself as a starter and willing to do that at a discount rate should be focused on Tampa.

Draft Option

  • QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

If the Bucs prefer to use the draft rather than free agency to find their next starting QB, they may want to consider trying to move up through a trade if they hope to nab one of the big three in Anthony Richardson, CJ Stroud, or Bryce Young.

Seattle Seahawks

2022 Recap: After trading away Russell Wilson in the offseason, it was expected to be something of a rebuilding year for the Seahawks in 2022. Instead, they rallied behind a resurgent Geno Smith to a 9-8 record that was good enough for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $85.5M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • QB Geno Smith (2 years, $30M)

Because of how well he played in 2022, Geno Smith has put the Seahawks in a bit of a tricky predicament. They will need to pay him a salary in line with the market for starting quarterbacks or else Smith can walk away and likely get that same money somewhere else. They’ll need to bear in mind too that Smith is hardly a young phenom at 32 years old, and they could quickly find themselves right back in another situation with an aging quarterback just as they were with Wilson.

Potential Cuts

  • LE Shelby Harris ($9M in savings versus $3.19M cap penalty)

The Seahawks don’t have any huge potential savings they can unlock by trimming fat on the roster, but they might want to at least consider letting Shelby Harris go a year early as his production could diminish at the age of 32.

Free Agent Fit

  • LE Jadeveon Clowney

Assuming the Seahawks are wanting to upgrade the sack production from their defensive line, they could upgrade and get someone a little younger than Harris like Clowney to rush the passer.

Draft Option

  • LB Will Anderson, Alabama

By virtue of the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks have the fifth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and yet that still might be too far down the board to nab a QB of the future. If they stay put where they are, they might be lucky enough to have Will Anderson fall into their lap after those QBs come off the board.

Dallas Cowboys

2022 Recap: In what’s becoming an annual tradition for America’s Team, they got a lot of people’s hopes up with an impressive regular season before coming up just short in an early-round playoff game. This year’s Cowboys rode out to a 12-5 record and then effectively ended Tom Brady’s career in a playoff game in Tampa but couldn’t outlast Brock Purdy and the 49ers in the divisional round.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $48.7M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • HB Tony Pollard (5 years, $7M)

A key reason the Cowboys rushing attack was so successful in 2022 was based on how they were able to unleash Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard (with Pollard probably still not getting enough touches). Though Elliott is only a year older than the 26-year-old Pollard, he has endured a bit more wear and tear and Pollard would be a wise investment to continue to shoulder some of the load. The Cowboys could decide instead though to try to plug in a cheaper option behind Zeke on the depth chart.

Potential Cuts

  • CB Jourdan Lewis ($5M savings versus $1.17 cap penalty)

Without any great options to create more cap space, the Cowboys could take the little money they can save by cutting Lewis and either find a cheaper cornerback in free agency or invest those savings elsewhere on the roster.

Free Agent Fit

  • HB Alexander Mattison

In a scenario where the Cowboys ultimately decide not to re-sign Tony Pollard (and probably cut Zeke as well), Mattison would be a prime example of the kind of more affordable option that would serve as the new counter-punch for the running game.

Draft Option

  • HB Bijan Robinson, Texas

If the Cowboys let Pollard go and want to go with a younger option at running back, look out for Robinson should he fall far enough for the Cowboys to grab him late in the first round.

New York Giants

2022 Recap: Relative to the expectations of most prognosticators, the Giants were overachievers in 2022. Not only did their 9-7-1 regular season record earn them a Wild Card playoff spot, they also beat the Vikings in Minnesota for an upset playoff win. New coach Brian Daboll (named Coach of the Year) was able to make lemons out of lemonade with a thin roster by getting the most out of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $110 million

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • QB Daniel Jones (4 years, $14M)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (6 years, $10M)

If the Giants believe in what Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley did last year and want to invest in them for the foreseeable future, they certainly have the cap space to make that happen. Madden 23 seems to especially undervalue the worth of Daniel Jones in having him accept a contract for just $14 million a year in a market where there would likely be suitors willing to pay him much more.

Potential Cuts

  • WR Kenny Golladay ($14.6M in savings versus a $6.8M cap penalty)

Golladay has not lived up to the size of his contract when he was acquired in free agency a couple of years ago, and it might be worth it to absorb the cap penalty just to free up that roster spot.

Free Agent Fit

  • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Giants are in dire need of playmakers, and if the Chiefs decide to let JuJu walk after signing him to just a one-year deal, the Giants could be an ideal landing spot for him in 2023. Perhaps it could even be regarded as some kind of compensation for the Chiefs essentially stealing Kadarius Toney from the Giants.

Draft Option

  • FS Jordan Battle, Alabama

Should the Giants look to bolster their defense through the draft, Battle is someone who can improve their secondary and help out in defending the run.

San Francisco 49ers

2022 Recap: One can’t help but wonder how the 49ers season might have ended if they had not lost all of their quarterbacks to injury. When both rookie Brock Purdy and veteran Josh Johnson went down in the NFC Championship game, it was clear that the team was battling a war of attrition they were destined to lose. It’s especially unfortunate since the Niners were legitimate contenders, boasting the best defense in the league and a potent rushing attack that grew even more difficult to defend after an in-season trade for Christian McCaffrey.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $72M

Key Player To Re-Sign

  • SS Jimmie Ward (2 years, $10M)

The 49ers have decisions to make with a few core pieces of a secondary that led the league in interceptions in 2022, with Ward, Jason Verrett, Tashaun Gipson, and Emmanuel Moseley all due to become free agents. The biggest one of the bunch to lock up is Ward, though they may want to avoid a long-term deal with Ward about to turn 32 before the 2023 season kicks off.

Potential Cuts

  • RE Nick Bosa ($17.9M in savings)

While it’s doubtful that the 49ers (or anyone in their right minds, for that matter) would want to cut ties with a 98 OVR pass rusher who is 25 years old like Bosa, he does represent the best opportunity to create cap space should they want to spend elsewhere. It’s more likely though that the team will be negotiating a new long-term deal with Bosa this year rather than releasing him.

Free Agent Fit

  • G Ben Powers

Whether it’s Brock Purdy or Trey Lance playing QB next season for the 49ers, you can bet that their identity will still revolve largely around the run game. With that in mind, they should look for an interior offensive lineman like Ben Powers in free agency if the Ravens aren’t able to retain him.

Draft Option

While the 49ers picked up a few compensatory picks at the end of the third round in real life, those assuming control of the team in Madden 23 won’t have a selection until the fifth round. Unless you’re willing to swing some deals to get into the earlier rounds, it will be hard to find a hidden gem this late in the draft.

Philadelphia Eagles

2022 Recap: It was very nearly a magical season for the Eagles in 2022, and if not for a defensive holding penalty that all but handed the win to the Chiefs, they could have easily emerged as the Super Bowl champions. Throughout 2022, they combined a dynamic offense led by emerging superstar QB Jalen Hurts with a stifling defense that almost set a new league record for sacks by a team in a season.

2023 Salary Cap Space: $122M

Key Players To Re-Sign

  • CB James Bradberry (2 years, $13.5M)
  • SS C.J. Gardner-Johnson (5 years, $13M)

The Eagles have quite a few players to re-sign in the offseason but fortunately possess a lot of cap space to make that happen. While it’s a no-brainer to ink 35-year-old center Jason Kelce to one more season should he not choose to retire, a bigger concern is with the secondary. Bradberry still has enough value at 30 years of age to extend him for a couple of years, while the younger Gardner-Johnson (he’s 25) could become an anchor of their defense.

Potential Cuts

  • CB Darius Slay ($17.5M in savings versus $8.61M cap penalty)

Slay would be a better option to release if he wasn’t a 91 OVR and didn’t carry that $8.61M cap penalty because he’s 32 years old and almost certain to regress as the 2023 season progresses. It’s more likely that they prefer to hang onto him for one more season before letting him test free agency.

Free Agent Fit

  • MLB Lavonte David

Despite Brandon Graham indicating that he has no intention of retiring, he will be 35 by the time the 2023 season begins and the Eagles might want to find someone younger at the linebacker position, especially if they lose T.J. Edwards to free agency. David will be 33 next season so he’s not significantly younger, but he would still be an upgrade at the position for at least a year or two and would likely want to end his career with a contender.

Draft Option

  • CB Eli Ricks, Alabama

The Eagles have the 10th pick in the 2023 draft by virtue of a trade with the Saints last season and could consider investing in a secondary that might be depleted if Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson leave in free agency. Ricks has the potential to be the best corner available in the draft and comes with that alluring Alabama pedigree.

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